Art has always been a significant part of Jay Pfeil’s life. She grew up with her mother as an artist who encouraged Pfeil to experiment and work with different mediums early in life. From drawing to painting to sculpting, the 72-year-old Black Mountain artist does it all. Over the last fifty years, you can find Pfeil’s art in private galleries in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.
Once a street artist on the bustling streets of San Francisco and Berkley, Pfeil has preferred the last few decades enjoying the solitude of the mountains of Western North Carolina, specializing in etching and engraving as her primary medium.
I love to immerse myself in nature. I observe everything, such as how the plants move with the sun. Everything I see comes out in my etchings,” stated Pfeil, who enhances her art by working with multiple plates.
Pfeil is making her debut at the N.C. State Fair this week in the Village of Yesteryear, she will explain the tedious process of intaglio printmaking, which involves etching an image into zinc plates. First, she prepares them in her kitchen by heating them by placing the plates on an upside-down frying pan. Then, once cooled, she applies a thin etching paper onto the plate.
“Most images I make are multiple colors, so I color separate when drawing the plate.,” explained Pfeil. “I start by drawing the most dominant color, usually black or blue, for my woodland scenes.”
The more colors, the more metal plates are needed. Small plates may be done in one sitting, whereas larger plates may take several visits to the location. For large plates, Pfeil takes photographs and works on the etches in her studio.
Humidity and temperature can also impact the artist’s work. If it is humid, it can expand the paper, so she has to work quickly. If the weather changes too much, she will have to visit another day or do the work in the studio to make sure it all aligns correctly.
“If it is humid, I may have only 15 minutes to etch on location,” stated Pfeil. “And if it gets too cold, I may get just an hour.”
Once Pfeil has a working proof of her work, she will engrave with a tool to create even more shading and dimension.
“With a four-plate etching, engraved, I can get a full-color image,” remarked Pfeil. “A single one-color plate etching may take me a few days, whereas a complete edition may take me years. But, of course, the more etching on a series, the longer it takes.”
Pfeil creates a limited edition of 95 prints. During her time in the Village of Yesteryear, Pfeil will encourage others to try their hand at etching and engraving.